Image courtesy @kokasexton
Recently, I have found myself obsessed with the words of a new-to-me motivational speaker, Dr. Eric Thomas (otherwise known as E.T.).
“Dominate your lane!”
“Silence the noise!”
I love these phrases.
And, after having them shouted at me from a 5 minute video shown during a team meeting, I want them branded — figuratively — across my mind, heart, and soul.
This aforementioned video was created by Dr. Thomas to inspire perseverance within his viewers. His speech was passionate and engaging — referencing often the winning habits of U.S. Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps— but basically boiled down to say: control the controllables.
“Stay in your space,” he says, “and create something in your space that has never been created before: control your lane.”
Well, for the past year I have swerved, coasted, and dive-bombed every lane but my own. I have committed myself to roles that offer immediate validation and copious accolades, but where failure would not phase me: e.g. sales rep, student, daughter, sister, friend, etc… I am two months from graduating with my Master’s Degree. Yet, I have taken few steps towards cultivating a viable resume for my field of passion: Publishing. Instead of writing short stories, I nap. Instead of completing half-attempted lit. mag. submissions, I pick up hours at the office. I contemplate applying for a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree, and then reassure myself that I would never be accepted, let alone find funding. There are endless opportunities for distraction, for self-abasement, and I take advantage of all them.
But, I am not stupid. I am not lazy. I do not lack skill or inspiration. As a 28 year old woman with a college education, supportive artistic community, and moderate income, I should already have accomplished more. I should be closer to my professional goals. At the very least my blog, which has sat built but neglected for the past year, should be thriving. I am not want for content ideas. At the end of 2015, I traveled to Winneba, Ghana. There, I spent two weeks with the staff and rescued children of Challenging Heights, a grassroots Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that fights child slavery in Ghana. This past summer, I explored Germany via foot, bike, car, and train. And, if those trips were not enough to spark words on screen, I recently moved to Atlanta, Georgia, a vibrant, eclectic city brimming with cultural and social possibilities. I mean really, for a girl claiming to be an aspiring writer with an affinity for culinary writing, how is it that I have yet to indulge in one of the many, many, MANY food and beverage festivals hosted here?
The answer? Because I lack direction, confidence, and determination. Until I stop seeking affirmation from sources outside myself; until I sit down and draft a functioning editorial calendar with strict deadlines; and, until I finally appreciate the worth of helping myself succeed over pushing other peoples’ dreams, I will never achieve my goals: personal or professional.
This struggle is not unique to me. I am not the first or last writer to ask “why haven’t I been published yet?” I am not the first creative to wonder “why do I have so many great ideas that never come to fruition?” And, I am not the first — or last — person to fear failing to the point that I circumvent all routes to success. Ultimately, succeeding in a field that does not hold my heart is more palatable than discovering I’m a miserable, mediocre writer and editor. But thinking and living this way, settling for a life I never wanted, means I have already failed in the worst kind of way. It confirms that I have succumbed to public opinion surrounding my abilities; that I have imbibed the personal failings of others shared with me, so that their loss is now my own; and, that I have condemned myself to perpetual disappointment with life. I do not accept this. I will never accept this.
So, this post is a personal acknowledgement that I could be doing more; that I should be doing more. When years have passed from now, I don’t want to look back and regret my wasted time or my half-assed efforts. This post is also an ode to other writers and artists who claim titles that they do not work to fulfill. We deserve to thrive in our fields of passion; to achieve our life goals through hard work. Then, to surpass them.
Anytime I am feeling inadequate, I will return to this video from Dr. Eric Thomas. I, as others should, will repeat his following words like a mantra : “I dare you to believe in yourself so much so that you do not need the affirmations of others. I dare you to believe in your uniqueness. I dare you to believe in you. I dare you to stand up for yourself. I dare you to dominate your space, your world, and to leave a legacy.” I will commit these words to memory. Then, I will keep pushing towards my goal, silencing the noise and dominating my lane.